Guest opinion: Park City’s struggling arts organizations need the community’s help
I saw it coming, and it still makes me sad. Performing arts nonprofits in our town are in trouble. My work with one of these organizations came to an end recently because of increasing budget constraints.
Park City Institute, where I worked alongside talented, smart people for four-plus years, is just one of the organizations that has shaped my family’s experience of an enriching cultural life in Park City for nearly 20 years. We have memories of outdoor concerts and Main Stage dance companies, speakers and musicians at the Eccles Center. My computer is filled with press releases about ground-breaking performances and conversations. Once, while visiting our old apartment building in New York City, our friends told us of an event, the previous evening, featuring a discussion with two journalists, Maureen Dowd and Carl Hulse. “It’s too bad you missed it,” they said. I grinned, as I replied: “They’ll be at the Eccles in Park City in December.”
My children have benefited from the programs of YOUTheatre at the Egyptian since they were in preschool. We have seen everything from delightful YOUTheatre productions like “Elf,” to concerts from Howard Jones, in that beautiful historic theater. Park City Film’s “BYO popcorn bowl” screenings have given us so many smart, thought-provoking entertaining films, with a heaping serving of community connection. And, for our student in dual-language immersion, French-language films to reinforce his classroom learning. We have loved every community concert presented by Mountain Town Music. The casual gatherings showcasing immense local talent — Dana Williams, Mary Beth Maziarz and so many others — are neighborly, comforting, fun. These moments represent tiny slices of programming from vibrant organizations that create the heartbeat and the soul of our community.
Each of these nonprofits has furloughed or laid off staff for whom their jobs are their livelihood, as well as their personal and professional passion. Their talents have made this community stronger, smarter and happier, for decades. And now, they’re struggling.
It’s easy to see why: We’re focusing, of course, on immediate needs. As a community we have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars for food and rent assistance. Ironically, there are likely people for whom that assistance is necessary because of the job losses in the arts sector. It’s also worth noting: They all present artists and work which speaks to our human condition, often addressing the tough topics we don’t yet know how to talk about — whether it’s the content or the performer’s personal history that fuels the work.
We know that, when the time is right, we’re going to want those uplifting community experiences again. We’re going to need them. (I don’t know about you, but the “diversion” of Tiger King left me depleted — and not in a good way.) These organizations don’t run with huge endowments. Every one of them has scaled back, recruited more grants and government funding, and winnowed expenses out of their books as much as possible. Without tickets to sell or the ability to offer sponsorships for programming, they need sustaining donations. There’s still overhead — the planning to create and deliver programming isn’t an overnight endeavor. They need the resources to be ready.
We need each other — we need to support every sector in the Park City community. It’s vital we continue to provide food and shelter and other critical needs. And, if you are able, please direct some support to local performing arts nonprofit organizations. I can’t wait for the day I can enter a theater again, or take a picnic to a hillside concert — and see you all there.
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